Keeping Score

Should A Former Man Be Able To Fight Women?

Transgender fighter Fallon Fox is sparking a debate in MMA

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From left: Allanna Jones and transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox at a press conference promoting their CFA fight taking place on May 24.

When Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox, the former Burton Boyd, told Sports Illustrated in early March that she used to be a man, the condemnation came quickly. “All hell broke loose, man,” says Jorge de la Noval, CEO of the Championship Fighting Alliance, the promotion which staged a Fox fight, which she won in 39 seconds, just five days prior. De la Noval was flooded with phone calls and emails, insisting that Fox — who got gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 — was some sort of sideshow who should never be allowed to fight women. It’s one thing for a male-t0-female transgender athlete to, say, play tennis against other women, like Reneé Richards famously did back in the 1970s. Or even basketball: that’s not a combat sport. But MMA is brutal. Letting Fallon Fox back in the ring could be dangerous.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter Matt Mitrione called Fox a “lying, sick, sociopathic, disgusting freak. And I mean that.” The UFC suspended Mitrione for 16 days, and fined him an undisclosed amount. “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has,” UFC star Ronda Rousey told the New York Post. “It’s an advantage. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Fox says she anticipated the negative feedback. “I’m not surprised at all,” Fox, 37, tells TIME. “It’s part of our history as human beings. People that we don’t understand, we always try to make fun of, of sensationalize.”

(MORE: Transgender Athletes – Why Lana Lawless Is Suing The LPGA) 

Despite the backlash, Fox is still fighting against females. The Florida State Boxing Commission has licensed Fox to fight as a woman, and Fox will face Allanna Jones in a CFA fight in Coral Gables, Florida on Friday night. Cable channel AXS TV has picked up  Fox’s card, which begins at 9:00 eastern, for a national telecast. “AXS TV has a long history of broadcasting the highest quality and most compelling non-UFC fights out there,” Mark Cuban, founder, chairman and president of AXS TV, writes TIME in an email. “We have long-term partnerships with several top end promoters. They do the match making, we don’t pick the fighters. That said, we are really excited to have a card with Fallon Fox on AXS TV. There is no question there is quite a bit of curiosity about her.”

Science seems to be on Fox’s side.  “Male to female transsexuals have significantly less muscle strength and bone density, and higher fat mass, than males,” says Dr. Eric Vilain, director of the Institute For Society And Genetics at UCLA. Vilain examined Fox’s medical records and wrote a letter supporting her bid to fight as a woman. He also helped the Association of Boxing Commissions write its transgender policy. In order to fight against women, male-to-female athletes who had surgery after puberty must show that “surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia and gonadectomy” and that “hormone therapy appropriate for the assigned sex (female) has been administered by a board certified endocrinologist or internist, pediatrician, or D.O. or any other specialist known to have significant knowledge with transsexuals and transgender individuals for a MINIMUM of TWO YEARS after gonadectroy. This is the current understanding of the minimum amount of time necessary to obviate male hormone gender related advantages in sports competition.”

Still, could Fox be stronger than the other women because she used to be a man? “She could be,” says Vilain. “But sports is made up of competitors who, by definition, have advantages for all kinds of genetics reasons. And no one complains about it.” A woman runner may be naturally faster, a woman basketball player taller, than her cohort. To exclude Fox because of her surgery, Vilain argues, would be discriminatory.

Plus, Fox’s low testosterone could offset any advantage. Since Fox has neither testicles nor ovaries, which both produce testosterone, her levels are likely lower than those of her female competitors. Fox says her training partner, who is a woman, is stronger than her, and has more endurance. “So I really have to work on my technique,” Fox says. She’s not winning on brute strength alone, she says. Fox is winning because she has serious fighting skills.

While growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Burton Boyd didn’t dream of a fighting career. He dreamt of becoming like his sister. “Ever since I was a child I had those feelings,” Fox says now. “It’s kind of hard to describe. It’s like trying to describe the color blue to someone who is color blind. What I can say is that it’s a subconscious feeling, drive, that tells you to want your body to the be the opposite sex of what you were born.”

Despite these feelings, Fox fathered a child at 19. She returned from a stint in the Navy, and became a truck driver to raise money for the 2006 reassignment surgery, in Thailand. Around 2008, a trainer at Fox’s gym introduced her to MMA. “I saw that there were other female fighters out there,” Fox says. “It just hooked me in. Women were fighting? That’s awesome. It was empowering and wonderful to watch. And I wanted to be just like them.”

This is Fox’s third pro fight. Nobody has lasted more than two minutes in the cage with her. Now, she’s not only fighting for herself, but for transgender acceptance. “I’m impressed that the CFA is sticking its neck out and letting her fight,” says Dr. Christopher Estes, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Miami Health System. “And Fallon Fox has a lot of guts too. She’s bringing transgender identity to the forefront. We’re now having a discussion – where do transgender folks fit into society? People struggling with these issues can say, ‘This is someone I identify with, someone I can see.’ She validates people.”

To Fox, the reaction to her bouts is like the response to MMA at the start. “People thought that MMA fighters were going to kill each other in the cage,” says Fox. “That just hasn’t happened.” Over time, her critics may not be as hysterical. “It’s just an educational thing that needs to happen with people,” she says. For now, she’s trying her best to drown out the negativity. “Every day I wake up and see myself in the mirror, it’s a high moment,” Fox says. “I know who I am. And it feels really good to be who I am.”

MORE: Women’s UFC Star Ronda Rousey, Unplugged

43 comments
JohnAnthonyVirgilio
JohnAnthonyVirgilio

If it's all the same, why don't we just mix all the sports? Men against women in Tennis. Track and Field. Men and women are equal physically, right? The record books bears this out, surely. When someone changes their genitalia, it changes nothing in sports, because the sexes are equal physically! Am I right?

ProtectAmericanJobs
ProtectAmericanJobs

Absolutely Not - Whoever thought that this was a good idea is a frigging brainwashed idiot.

BelindaBaggins
BelindaBaggins

He looked at this as a way to make money and he's a fake phony.  Why are there "protected people" for as in you can't speak anything bad about them yet there are people like women that aren't protected.  Women have had struggles forever and for a man to become a woman then get into the ring with women even though he's not genetically a woman is an insult to women.


Women have not been credited for much throughout history and here we have this liar and cheater pretending to be us.  I am shocked that he's still doing this when the ONLY woman who beat him is being punished for diuretics found in her system and fined for it.  When will women really be honored?  Why do men want to be us yet put us down? 

Here is the only woman to beat this man and yes he's a man beating on women.  SHAME ON EVERYONE THAT ENDORSES THIS.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzvqdgNByfM

Joe022
Joe022

Time's headline claiming he is a "former man" is inaccurate.  He is still a man. This is not opinion, this can be scientifically verified. 


The MMA league needs to fight this, they will probably lose in court but this will mean the end of the women's leagues for them.  Nobody wants to watch men beating up women. This first person is going to  get press and hype so the numbers might go up for a while but if there are multiple men in this league most people are going to be disgusted with it and will not watch. 

pammy
pammy

Not buying the medical study.  You can take all the hormone pills/injections and still be what you were born.  This man still has a man's strength. What a shame.  This dude masquerading as a woman decimated a real woman and people are applauding.  I think he flubbed his first fight and then showed his real power against his last opponent.  She should sue MMA and this shame of a man.  He couldn't cut it as a man and now he wants to show how he can beat up women.  Why doesn't he fight a real man?  What a worthless piece of trash.

wstartar
wstartar

i am so sick of Fallon and others saying "the science/medical community agrees that Fallon doesn't have an advantage and should be allowed to fight"   


They have like 2 or 3 doctors who they get quotes from, who clearly have some agenda in the field, I am sure if you surveyed a thousand doctors at least 95 percent of them would no brainer say obviously she shouldn't be fighting women....  But obviously some doctor isn't going to attach himself to the cause of speaking out against fallon fox....so all we hear is the couple doctors make statements supporting her, and Fallon and whoever else act like the medical community all agrees in her favor.  She is a sociopath, totally insane and delusional to think what she's doing isn't wrong on so many levels....


Furthermore, she was never any kind of accomplished athlete during 31 years of being a male, and suddenly becomes female, and at the age of 34 starts learning MMA and is able to become a high level pro in a couple years, fighting in the pro ranks and knocking girls out at age 38?  she is DELUSIONAL to think she is just very skilled at her craft and that theres nothing out of the ordinary about her situation....even though there are no other 38 year old women fighting high level women's MMA, and there certainly aren't any pro MMA fighters who picked up the sport in their mid 30s.....   absolute sociopath....you never were a high level athlete as a male, become female at 31, a few years later you have the desire to compete at fighting women....  And despite no noteworthy athletic history during your first 31 years on this planet, upon becoming a female, you were able to pick up the sport of Woman's MMA quicker and at a later age than any other woman ever has, and it's no woman has ever come close to just starting the sport in their mid 30s and within a couple years becoming a pro.   The real female fighters have been high level athletes their entire lives and training working hard learning the sport for most of their lives.....years of training and hard work, but it somehow just came a lot easier to Fallon, I wonder why?

Joe022
Joe022

@wstartar Don't play their game and reverse the pronouns.  He is a boy.  Don't call him a her

BelindaBaggins
BelindaBaggins

@wstartar Are people betting on this person and gaining financially off of it?  I smell a rat.  Sexists love this idea as it gives them this "See told you men are superior!".  Transgender women like this seem like underneath it all, they are sexist and want to beat up women because they cannot beat up men.

angelmoreno666666
angelmoreno666666

I disagree with Chloe Sagal.  Technique is part of it, but relying on strength and condition is necessary to be the best.  Look at GSP look at his body! Every part of his body is muscle that's why he is the best welter weight fighter as opposed to other fighters just as good (technique wise), the extra strength in his muscles and conditioning allows for quicker power moves and relfex and over all better control on his opponents.  And Chloe biatch you're not a fighter so STFU biatch!  

Overal I think it's WRONG to allow a transgender man-chick fight against a woman!  Fallon clearly looks like a man wearing a wig on.  Big ass shoulders and bigger fist and feet.  That to me is the real discriminating factor! Allow Fallow to fight other Trans genders and that would be "FAIR"  otherwise it's like watching a gay dude beat up on a women.  ITS WRONG!  THEY are not the SAME SEX!  Surgery and popping pills does not make a guy into a man!  Such CRAP I'm READING!  

ChloeSagal
ChloeSagal

This debate is completely worthless.

Technique makes a better fighter.  If you are relying on strength and don't know how to fight a stronger opponent or one with a different body type, then you aren't a very capable fighter.  After all, what's the point of learning any martial arts when all we had to do is lift?  Fights are already restricted to weight class, so the distinction of gender is completely irrelevant.

TomasRicardez
TomasRicardez

We should just eliminate all the gender boundaries in MMA and see how that turns out.

LoocyE
LoocyE

board certified endocrinologist Dr. Ramona Krutzi, MD in http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/3/20/4128658/dr-ramona-krutzik-endocrinologist-discusses-possible-advantages-fallon-fox-has/in/3847225:   

Typically, you're looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and sexual reassignment surgery to really start to see significant changes in bone density. It's been too early for her to see much of a decrease in bone mass or to make her equal to that of a female. She started off with a much higher bone density than other women her same age, and therefore will maintain a lot of that for a while. Additionally, because she is taking estrogen, that will actually help to maintain that bone mass. Women also have lighter, child bearing hips because of the difference in hormones during the body's developmental years. Her skeleton and body mass and shape developed a long time ago. Those changes cannot be undone. They are permanent.

Her testosterone levels are more than likely in the normal female range, since her adrenals are the primary source for it now. She didn't undergo hormone therapy and surgery until she was fully developed, as compared to someone who completes therapy and surgery in their adolescence or very early adulthood, when they haven't completely developed. She has the potential to be significantly stronger because her muscle development reached several years beyond full maturity, giving her the potential to be significantly stronger than other age matched women.There's not really a way to determine how much her muscle mass will decrease over time. What can be said is that she has a naturally higher propensity to build and maintain muscle mass because she was once a fully developed, adult male. You can't ever take that away from her.

KatelynJecmen
KatelynJecmen

Obviously the reading comprehension of some of the comentary is pretty low cus despite the fact that the article very clearly addresses the medical standpoint of any advantage being gone ignorant bafoons still chant that Fox has some perceived advantage based on pretty much everything that was mentioned as having gone away on her, as in they F-ING TESTED HER AND PROVED SHE DIDN'T HAVE ANY PHYSICAL ADVANTAGES OVER THE AVERGE WOMAN IN HER WEIGHT CLASS, sorry you are too stupid to understand such simple words >_<

LoocyE
LoocyE

Fallon Fox moves like a man and fights like a man. When you watch one of Fox's fights, it doesn't look like two women doing MMA fighting -- it looks like a man and a woman.   The people who are paying to see Fallon Fox fight are people who get off on watching a man beat up a woman.  The whole point of having a separate women's division is to account for developmental differences between the bodies of those who grew up male and those who grew up female.  I support Fox's desire to live life as a female, but you can't deny her 30 years in a male body and it is wrong for her to put herself in a situation where she is using her male strength to beat up women.

jaythenerdkid
jaythenerdkid

That's an incredibly transphobic title. I can't believe TIME would publish something like this. Fallon Fox is not a "former man" - she's a transgendered woman. This is disgusting.

tmom
tmom

He is still a man, still stronger than most women.  He changed his outside, but he is still a man.  Why doesnt hecome the first "woman" to fight men?  Maybe he couldn't cut it huh!

Chosun1
Chosun1

Should A Former Man Be Able To Fight Women? 

No.


ChristineFaithSpencer
ChristineFaithSpencer

This has an undertone of a lot of transphobia.  It sure starts out really bad.

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